Saracens

16 January, 1999

Vicarage Road

Cardiff
scorers
Owain Williams (1)
Liam Botham (1)
Craig Morgan (1)
Lee Jarvis (1)
Lee Jarvis (1)

So the loosing streak away from home continues with yet another defeat, this time to the always professional Saracens. Despite a rousing start from the team in the first 10 minutes, the power of the Saracens pack at set piece won the game for the Londoners. Saracens much vaunted catch, drive and flop-over-the-line-from-five-yards produced three tries against a lightweight first-half Cardiff pack. That Cardiff changed things around in the second half was due to a change in personnel. So at last Terence is learning the value of tactical changes, though we really have to ask why the initial selection was made? Saracens are famed for their 5 metre tries and to lose three before doing anything about it, borders on the irresponsible.

In the tight, we were out-scrummaged and in the lineout out-thought. In the rucks we were muscled off the ball and in the mauls ....... well, we conceded three tries - didn't we? Young Paul Williams, whilst trying manfully to pinch the ball at the breakdown, was outplayed by Richard Hill by a mile. Whilst he will undoubtedly be a key player in the Cardiff squad in seasons to come, he simply lacks the bulk in the challenge to make a difference. But this was a fine Saracens pack, playing "in-your-face" rugby and the Cardiff forwards were simply out-powered in the first half.

If anything, Saracens should have been more that 29-8 ahead at half time. Despite forward supremacy, Keiran "nice but dim" Bracken merely shovelled the ball outwards to Penaud, whose erratic kicking summed up his play - good or woeful, but never anything in between. Whilst the Saracens forwards drove low and hard as a unit, the pacey, aggressive and direct running Saracens backs, failed to make an impression. Peter Thomas is going to have to dig deep into his wallet to keep the likes of Mr Howley at Cardiff, given the paucity of English scrum halves we've seen this season.

However, with the half-time introduction of Steve Williams and John Tait and in the closing stages Spencer, suddenly there was a more combative approach to the Cardiff play. It was Cardiff piling into rucks and mauls and driving the Saracens off the ball. As a result, Cardiff won the second half 12-6 and but for their own errors, could have done enough to win the game. Tait took some wonderful balls off the top of the lineout, tapping straight to Howley which gave the backs those extra yards in which to move. With more pace out wide, the game would have been there for the taking. At last Kacala had a marauding partner in the back row, and suddenly we were taking the ball at pace from first and second phase. Steve Williams at blind side flanker is a must if Cardiff are to stop the rot away from home this season. There was suddenly real fire in the pack when he joined the fray and the whole speed of the game increased.

But overall, the players paid the price for a first half performance lacking in passion and aggression, or was it the coaches who paid the price for picking the wrong team? Anyway, the second-half transformation sent us away more frustrated with what could have been rather than disappointed with defeat.

Surely the high spot of the afternoon was Saracens remote controlled toy car which brought on the tee for the kickers (perhaps their answer to Ponty's Montego?) Expertly driven it was, too.

Saracens is the future of rugby. In contrast with the bad mannered gibberish of the moron on the mike at the Madjeski stadium who even had the audacity to urge the crowd to whistle for the end of the game, this week's announcer showed respect for the opposition (obvious as it may seem, you need to build up the opposition as strong to revel in the glory of your victory!). The game was played on a perfect pitch (take note, you Sardis Road rice farmers), at a well stewarded stadium, with seat-numbered tickets available in advance, and some fine pon-pon waving floozies who wiggled for our enjoyment at every injury-tarnished lull in the game. With a pint in one hand and a burger (barely edible) in the other, (other than a victory) what more can you ask for?

15
Craig Morgan
8
/10
positionally, he still needs some coaching, and his kicking is merely average, but his pace is phenomenal and he was a real handful for the Saracens defence - scored a great try coming into the line at pace.
14
Liam Botham
7
/10
made an annoyance of himself well, but lacks the pace of Sullivan and needs to look for more work in the centre of the field.
13
Leigh Davies
6
/10
the spark seemed missing today, but maybe he's not yet match fit. Lost the ball in contact and failed to break as many tackles as he used to - pump some iron Leigh!
12
Matthew Wintle
9
/10
manfully trying to cover for the defensive inadequacies inside him, always direct in his running and cover tackling - the sign of the season
11
Simon Hill
7
/10
some nice touches, but is either loosing his pace or those around him are getting faster!
10
Lee Jarvis
5
/10
mediocre. Once more a failure to get stuck in gave more tries away - Penaud dancing through his flailing arms and the Saracens team quickly worked out the Cardiff weakness. Still made a lot of cross kicks for Sullivan to chase - trouble was, he wasn't playing. Failed with with two conversions and conceded more than he scored.
9
Robert Howley
8
/10
struggled manfully behind a beaten pack in the first half, but lacked a dynamic back row to give him the space in the second half. Box kicked to little effect.
8
Greg Kacala
8
/10
More passes taken flat at pace in the second half than we've seen all season! Nevertheless, Saracens defence was top class. No one around to move the ball quickly from the tackle zone though. With the introduction of Steve Williams he had more room as Saracens defence had to spread thinner.
7
Paul Williams
4
/10
Unfortunately, out of his class against a formidable Saracens back row. A lack of power let him down but showed enough rugby brain to indicate that he's a man for the future.
6
Owain Williams
1
/10
Woeful. Played like he'd already signed for Saracens. Why didn't we take the thirty grand and let him go? Gave a stupid try aware with a Jarvisesque big girls blouse "tackle" when Cardiff had three on two in defence. As the pack raced backwards under Saracens mauling power, he stood loose like a traffic warden ushering them through. How can we get rid of this player? Why does he keep getting picked? Steve Williams (9) - came on at half time and transformed the game.. Never took one step backwards, ran hard and direct and tackled ceaselessly. Why wasn't he on earlier, Terence?
5
Derwyn Jones
4
/10
Shunted backwards in the scrum, slow ball in the line out (only capable of catch and maul) no aggression in the loose. Oh dear! Can we do two for the price of one with Owain? John Tait (9) - another half time substitute who had a storming second half. Fast ball from the lineout, tenacious tackles in the loose and high mobility around the pitch. If only he was Welsh ......!
4
Steve Moore
5
/10
Don't confuse lard with iron, this man had a big presence in tight play. Mr Moore and Dai Young were the only players in the first half trying to stand up to the power of the Saracens pack. Nevertheless, seemed off the pace in a lightening quick game.
3
Dai Young
6
/10
Dai went backwards in the scrum. There, we said it. We never thought we would, but we did. We know that Humph is missing, but there's something fundamentally wrong in that scrum - Charlie, earn your crust, 'cos things ain't getting any better! Spencer John (6) - Maybe the opposition pack had tired by the last 10 minutes, but when he came on the scrum stopped going backwards. Still likes to run with the ball (away from support), but this time, to add some variety, ran into his own man instead.
2
Damien Geraghty
4
/10
Off the pace, not combative enough, crucial "not-straight throw" - if you want a contract, get practising.
1
Andrew Lewis
5
/10
How the mighty have fallen! Now struggling to get into the Cardiff team, let along the Welsh team, Andy was totally ineffective throughout the game - obviously has the 'flu!